Father Himes, popular Boston College theologian and author, dies at 75

BOSTON — Father Michael J. Himes, who retired last year after nearly three decades on the faculty of Jesuit-run Boston College, died June 10 at age 75. No cause of death was given.

Father Himes, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, was popular among students and other faculty members for his work in pastoral theology and his award-winning books.

A funeral mass for the priest was celebrated June 14 at Boston College’s St. Ignatius of Loyola Church.

His speech “What makes a great university?” during orientation sessions for freshmen and their parents, he often earned standing ovations on campus.

Father Himes developed a vocational discernment framework called the “Three Key Questions” at Boston College: “What brings you joy? What are you good at? And who does the world need you to be?

In his homily at Boston College’s 150th Anniversary Mass at Fenway Park in 2012, Father Himes urged all students educated at Boston College to “give” the gift of receiving a college education: “The measure of success of your education at Boston College,” he said, “is the extent to which people’s lives are richer, fuller, and more authentically human because you went to Boston College. “

Father Himes began teaching theology at Boston College in 1993. He worked alongside his brother, Franciscan Father Kenneth Himes—literally, as their faculty offices adjoined each other.

They also co-wrote “Fullness of Faith” in 1993, which won a Catholic Press Association award the following year.

“Michael was a natural storyteller and public speaker,” his priest brother said in a statement. “When we were growing up in Brooklyn, if it was a rainy day and we couldn’t go out to play, Michael would gather a bunch of us kids in the stairwell of our building and have fun with it. stories of Aesop, the Brothers Grimm, Walt Disney or Arthurian legends.All his life he used this talent to entertain, teach, inspire others.

Father Michael Himes, at the National Catholic Educational Association’s 2011 convention, said Catholic educators have the task of nurturing human beings who care about others.

“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll become a society…with wonderful doctors who can’t relate to human beings; we will provide splendid engineers who will produce structures but have no idea how they will unite communities,” he said. “What we want is to shape humanity. In the Christian tradition, humanity is what we share with God.

At the 1994 Heartland Conference, Father Himes called the tradition “the story of how everything changes”.

The idea that tradition is somehow frozen in time is “a particularly destructive heresy”, he said. “It takes a moment in the history of the church and says, ‘This is final and absolute.’ Any attempt to say that this or that formula cannot be changed is idolatry,” he said.

At the 1997 Los Angeles Religious Education Conference, Father Himes said, “The word of God is as dead as a doorknob if the community does not bring the word to life. And if love is not the guiding principle of this community, then God is dead.

He added, “You cannot claim that God is love to one who has never known love.”

To effectively proclaim God’s love, Father Himes said, “you must be a person of service. This is why we receive the sacraments of baptism, of the Eucharist, of confirmation — for the good of each other, not for ourselves. If not, why are they community celebrations? »

Ordained on May 27, 1972, Father Himes served as professor and academic dean at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York, from 1977 to 1987. After that and before his time at Boston College, he taught at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana from 1987 to 1993.

He had a bachelor’s degree from Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, which was in Douglaston, New York; a master’s degree from Huntington Seminary; and a doctorate in Christian history from the University of Chicago. He also had four honorary degrees.

Besides his priest brother, he is survived by his sister, Eileen M. Himes, and a nephew.

Lola R. McClure